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Dear Hopeless Americans,

The first family reunification deadlines are now approaching. The court in the San Diego, California case issued a ruling that children under 5 years old must be returned by Tuesday, July 10th, and the remaining children by July 26th. As described in the letter for Day 477, the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t exactly have a good reputation for keeping track of the immigrant children in its care. However, it’s become clear that the Trump administration kept pathetically, arguably criminally, inadequate records of the approximately 3,000 children that it removed from the care of their families at the border.  This number is a marked increase from the 2,047 figure the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported only 9 days before this estimate, despite HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s claim that “the government knows the identities and location of all the minors under the department’s care.”  Secretary Azar held conference calls with members of the House and Senate on Friday to discuss the family separation policy.  According to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (a Democrat), the call revealed “more shocking questions raised about whether info and [a] system exists to reunify children with parents.

The court order also required the government to ensure that children were able to call their parents at least twice a week, but coverage by numerous sources, including CNN, NPR and PBS News Hour, indicate that even this task has proven challenging for the administration.  Jennifer Podkul is the policy director for non-profit providing children’s advocacy services in immigration court and has stated, “It is evident … that there is no consistent policy for ensuring communication among separated children and parents.”

A guest on a recent episode of my favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, defined grief as “reckoning with what cannot be undone.”  The PBS News Hour article points to a lot of grief caused by the Trump administration’s spiteful family separation policy.  According to Howard Zucker, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, “[p]rolonged stress (also known as toxic stress) can permanently disrupt the structure and function of a child’s developing brain.”  New York City health care official Mitchell Katz confirmed that “NYC Health + Hospitals have treated several children … separated from their families at the southwestern United States border … for such condition[s] as asthma, strep throat, and suicidal ideation.” The Trump administration has already requested an extension of the family reunification deadlines, which simply means the damage they have done will be further prolonged and harder to reverse, if it’s even possible to do so.

What’s most disturbing to me is that this policy of separating families is a form of retribution for and deterrent from seeking asylum. Punishing people, especially in this way, because they asked for help demonstrates ill will and shows us to be ruthless and hard-hearted. As Americans, we face a grave reckoning with the harm we’ve permitted to be done in our names.  And we should mourn the stain this has made on the moral fabric of our nation.

Based on the definition of grief provided above, I think the difference between grief and hope is the possibility of change. We grieve when something happens that, for whatever reason, is unchangeable. On the other hand, we wallow when we’re indulging in self-pity.  Not all hope is lost. It’s still possible to make amends for the vindictive actions committed on our behalf and change our ways.  Please support the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) or one of the many other organizations working to assist the children forcibly removed from their parents simply because they asked for our help.


Christine Trinh and Letters2Trump


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